My mother has always loved children, and was over the moon for mine. She was very excited when she knew she was about to have a grandchild, and was the stereotypically perfect grandmother for the short time she was able to be interactive in Olivia’s life.
There were constant presents, daily visits, book readings, sleep overs, excursions, babysittings, and endless compliments and joy in talking with me about Olivia. “I miss when Popo used to come over and read to me,” Olivia has remarked more than once.
I miss it, too. We feel Mom’s memory loss sharply, because my mother was the only interested grandparent. It’s an illusion that age always brings redemption, or even the desire for redemption.
A year ago, my mother looked at Olivia and asked, “And who is this pretty little girl?”
“It’s Olivia, Mom. Remember Olivia?” I reminded her.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but it cut deeply into my sensitive daughter’s psyche. To be forgotten. To be abandoned by someone she loves.
I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me, but it should have. Men wage wars to build a legacy to be remembered. To be remembered is to live on. To matter.
She admitted this to me later, in the dark of the bedtime hour, in a small voice. “Did Popo forget me?” she asked.
“Popo remembers you in her heart,” I assured her. “She loved you very much.”
For a long time, my daughter didn’t want to see my mother at the rest home. It made her sad to be forgotten. I respected that.
One day, I realized that my mother always indicated she knows Olivia is her granddaughter. Then I put it together that she doesn’t recognize Olivia now. She remembers a baby or a toddler.
I told Olivia this, and it made it OK to visit the care home again. I introduced Popo to Olivia 2016, and everything went well. We talked, we laughed, and Olivia performed a dance routine for her.
I think it’s sweet that my mother loved my daughter so much, she somehow remembers her even though Olivia’s only been around for nine years. My mother has long forgotten who my husband is, and she’s known him for 16 years.
It’s still sad for my daughter, but now it’s just sad in the same way it is for me, that this woman we love keeps drifting further and further away. And we will remember her as she is: loving and loved.